I finally got a chance to spend some time taking racquetball photos at the 2009 Sunset Athletic Club Turkey Shoot Pro-Am this past weekend! Felt good to be back in the “Double Donut Dog House” (check out the area behind the front wall window if you get a chance), and I ended up with ~1000 shots or so. This turned out to be a GREAT event with several of the top pros, and I look forward to seeing what Paul Maduell can put together for next year. Oregon would be the perfect spot for an IRT Tier 1, so I’ll definitely keep my fingers crossed. Best photo courts I’ve shot on (*slight* exception to the IRT portable court), bar none!!
This past weekend, the The 4th Seoul Kyung Jae Korea Open Championships were held in Seoul, South Korea. Representing the IRT, was E-Force player Chris "the crippler" Crowther. From the photos and some commentary from people who attended, it sounded like a kick-ass event. The court was 5-wall glass (sound familiar) positioned in the middle of a big shopping mall. The player intros featured a full light show AND pyrotechnics!! A good summary was given by Mark Salinas on the MNP forums. Some pics (from the Korea Racquetball Federation):
The tournament in Seuol is one of the largest racquetball events in Korea. In the past, the event has attracted several top players from Mexico , Japan and all over Asia. This year the event will become an IRT satellite and feature top IRT professional , Chris Crowther. This year is even more exciting since the event will feature a brand new glass court that will be set up in an outdoor high traffic area where the sport will be showcased to many people who have never heard or seen the racquetball. Racquetball is growing very quickly in Korea and this event is sure to bring more people to the sport in Korea.
The tournament is sponsored by Kyung Jae Newspaper, BMS Korea, Hym Chan Entertainment Corporation, Sport- Up and E-Force
Normally end-of-season Tier 2 events (not affecting year-end outcome of rankings for most pros) don’t get much attention from racquetball fans outside of the host city, but the 2008 Steadman Hawkins IRT Greenville Open is generating some buzz. This event marks the return of one of the greatest players the sport has ever seen, Kane Waselenchuk. Armed with his new racquet, the Krowning Moment KM175, Kane will be testing the waters of the IRT tour against some of the tour’s top players, including: Shane Vanderson, Alvaro Beltran, and Rocky Carson (**assuming all top seeds advance).
Kane will play Shane Vanderson at 5:30PM EST TONIGHT, and you can bet I’ll have some updates online as soon as they are ready. Assuming Kane picks up where he left off two seasons ago, he’ll play in the semifinals at 4:30PM on Saturday, and then in the finals at 12:30PM on Sunday.
I decided to go back and take a look at the finishes of the IRT players for the 2007-2008 season, and below you will find a summary table for all Tier 1 and Grand Slam Events – 13 in total (**except two quaterfinalists from Allentown, PA where the draws are completely MIA). The rankings you see are from about mid-season, so the actual year-end rankings are not accurate. There is a definite trend for the top 7 or so players, with the 8th spot up for grabs at each of the events. The top two athletes also dominated throughout the season, with Jack and Rocky only giving up a single tournament win to another player.
Through some discussions with Mike Boatman, I learned that the IRT was distributing IRT Pro Player Trading Cards at the 2008 IRT Pro Nationals in Chicago! It looks like the top 10 players were included, but it’s not clear if they are intended to be for the 2007-2008 season or if they are more of a “one time thing”. These cards will apparently be sold through the IRT Store, however they weren’t listed on the site at the time of this post. I’m very curious to see the details (like cost and how many are available), so if anyone has an inside line, please comment below!
Now official? Come to think of it, I haven’t received too many pro racquetball player announcements from Pro Kennex in the past, so I guess the word of Russ Mannino is as good as any If anyone knows what Pro Kennex is up to, it’s probably the father of their #1 player, Jason Mannino. Great news for PK officially getting Kane Waselenchuk on board, I expect to see those two guys continuing their great play for the 2008-2009 season. Also good to hear that Pro Kennex has the financial position to keep Jason around for a few more years. Someone send me some pics of Kane’s new Krowning Moment racquet!!!
Kane Waselenchuk, 3X #1 player in the world, teams up with, Jason Mannino, 2X US Open Champion, to form an intimidating presence on the 2008 – 2009 IRT Pro Tour, giving Pro Kennex two great players and unique personalities for all racquetball players and fans to watch this upcoming year.
Jason Mannino resigns up to the 2010 season.
Kane will be showcasing his new racquet, The Krowning Moment.
Jason will also be unveiling the new Pro Kennex Kinetic Quad 170, both will resale for under $200.00
Kane Waselenchuk’s two year absence from the pro racquetball tour has seen two new IRT year-end champions crowned, and one new victor to the sport’s premiere event, the US OPEN. As of June 2008, Kane Waselenchuk is again eligible to compete in events sanctioned by the International Racquetball Federation (IRF), and more importantly, USA Racquetball (as USAR sanctions all IRT events). Many anticipate Kane will immediately return to the top spot in the sport, while others speculate that he’ll need some play time to get his game back on par with “big boys”.
Kane has been sporadically participating in regional exhibition events in Texas, but gets the opportunity to “level” his skills in just two days during a non-sanctioned event against Jason Mannino. His next stop will be in Arlington, TX where he will complete against all the top ranked IRT pros in a Tier 2 … . Hmm, just as I am writing this, it looks like the Arlington event has been “downgraded” to a one-day shootout as part of the “Triple Crown” in Texas. Damn! I guess if you want to see Kane play prior to his official comeback during the 2008-2009 season, you’ve got to go the “Battle of the Champions” versus Jason Maninno.
I think many people were really looking forward to see how Kane’s game has changed after being gone for two years, and now we’ll have to wait for a few more months to see how he holds up for a full-fledged event. This is going to be a long off-season!
The other unknown is Kane’s new equipment for the up-coming year. He has started a relationship with Pro Kennex for his own racquet, the Krowning Moment. Little is known about where the racquets will be sold, specs, etc.
There have been MANY rumors surrounding an affiliation between the IRT (Men’s Pro Racquetball Tour) and ESPN, to provide live video streaming of the events. On May 8th, the IRT sent out a newsletter, part of which is copied below. In summary, ESPN360.com will provide live video streaming for all Tier 1 IRT stops next season!! This move by the IRT should provide a HUGE increase in exposure for the sport, and we can only hope that things continue to move in this direction. Next season should be a VERY exciting year for the sport!
I’m still not sure why ESPN360.com is only available to certain ISP’s (licensing fees?), but any increase in viewership is a good thing, IMO.
ESPN360.com will become the official home for live IRT action this fall. A deal was signed before the Motorola IRT Pro Nationals presented by Verizon Wireless between ESPN and the IRT to broadcast all semi-final and final matches at all tier one IRT events in the US. Also as part of the deal ESPN will air the Motorola Pro Nationals in Chicago and The Motorola World Championships in Denver on ESPN Classic on a tape delayed basis. Air times will be in primetime and re-aired in prime time. More details are coming so keep your eyes on the IRT website.
ESPN360.com is ESPN’s signature broadband sports network, delivering more than 2,500 live global sports events per year. The service offers a mosaic of screens that allow users to follow multiple events simultaneously, and expanded controls including live-event pause, rewind and fast forward. ESPN360.com is currently available in nearly 23 million homes nationwide via more than 20 Internet service providers including AT&T, Verizon, RCN, Insight, Frontier, Cavalier, Charter, Mediacom, Conway, Grande Communications and more. Additionally, it is available to approximately 18 million U.S. college students and U.S.-based military personnel (fans accessing ESPN360.com from computers connected to an on-campus educational or military network – those with “.edu” or “.mil” domains).
Consumers wanting more information about ESPN360.com, which high speed Internet services currently provide it, and how they can get it should go to www.espn360.com.
Although Double Donut Studios did not attend the 2008 IRT Pro National Racquetball Championships, veteran racquetball photographer Mike Boatman was onsite. Besides being all all-around great guy and talented racquetball photographer, Mike is an accomplished national photographer based out of Memphis, TN. Here are a few “teasers” – head over to the galleries for the complete 145 photo set.
**** All photos Copyright 2008 Mike Boatman – www.MikeBoatman.com. ***** (please contact Mike Boatman directly for licensing inquiries)
The 2008 IRT Pro National Racquetball Championships finished this weekend, with defending champion Jack Huczek(2) defeating Rocky Carson(1) in a LONG 5-gamer. Although a BIG win, Rocky Carson still sealed the deal for a year-end IRT #1 ranking with his second place finish. There were TWO huge additions to this year’s event – a new portable court with 4-wall glass, and LIVE video streaming via www.espn360.com.
The court looked great (from what I saw on the live ESPN feed), and it appears the front wall was covered with the IRT Pro Nationals logo. There were also two logo banners on either side wall of the court. The commentators made some comments about “the dark left wall”, where players were having some troubles immediately seeing the ball. It will be interesting to hear further reports from players who spent some time on the court this weekend. From what I understand, this will be the court used for all future IRT Grand Slam events.
The streaming on www.espn360.com was great! As with any internet feed, there was some intermittent “pauses” in the audio/video, but the overall quality made it easy to follow the action. It was exciting to see the ESPN logos around the video score banners and other areas This could be a HUGE relationship for the IRT, and I hope to see ESPN bring racquetball to people who haven’t experienced the sport. The matches from this weekend are currently available in the “archive” section of www.espn360.com, and I HIGHLY encourage anyone to spend a few minutes checking them out!
The 2008 IRT Pro Nationals is getting ready to kick off this weekend in Chicago, IL. This event also serves as a regional qualifier for the 2008 USA Racquetball National Singles Championships, and there are over 300 participants competing in many age/skill divisions. This event debuts the much anticipated “portable court” for the IRT, which features all four walls comprised of glass. From the photo, it appears that the front wall has been masked with the IRT Pro Nationals logo, and covered in white. It was once mentioned that such a masking could be applied, and that viewers from the outside could see through the masking, while players would see the white surface. I’ll confirm this as soon as I make contact with media personnel at the event. The other huge news story from the event is a new partnership between ESPN and the IRT, which will result in the semis and finals being broadcast LIVE on www.espn360.com, and then other matches tape delayed on ESPN Classic.
‘Tis the time of year that the major equipment manufacturers start announcing any new contracts with Pro level players. This list is not comprehensive of all Pro players, as many are in the middle of existing contracts. Here is a quick summary:
Rhonda Rajsich – 2 year contract
Shane Vanderson – 3 year contract
Jason Thoerner – 3 year contract
Mike Guidry – 2 1/2 year contract
Mike Green – 2 year contract
Ryan Smith – 2 year contract
Kane Waselenchuk (*** no official word has been released to date, but Kane has been seen on event posters with his new “Krowning Moment” racquet. It appears to be his own line, produced by Pro Kennex – as noted by the Pro Kennex logo on the posters and racquet stencil)
I’ll update this list as any new information surfaces ..
Next weekend in Chicago, IL, the men’s pro racquetball players on the IRT Tour will be in action at the IRT Pro Nationals – the last big event of the year. While the US OPEN was broadcast several months after the event on The Tennis Channel, the Pro Nationals will air live on espn360.com!!
It is your last chance to enter the biggest and most exciting event of the season April 23-27 at the 2008 Motorola IRT Pro Nationals and USAR Adult Regional Racquetball Championship presented by Verizon Wireless. The deadline is approaching fast this Friday April 18th. Don’t miss the top IRT players in the world compete on the new “All Lucite Stadium Court” and if you cannot make it you can watch the semi’s and final live on www.ESPN360.com or later this spring in ESPN Classic.
There will be a rockin’ party on Friday night in the Motorola Players Village featuring “Ellis Drive” playing classic rock hits from Motley Crue, Poison, AC/DC, Aerosmith, Kiss and many more. Saturday will rock at the Rock with the pro’s bash at Entourage in Schaumburg featuring live music from the Renaissance Band playing more of your favorite classic rock tunes.
The event will also offer you a chance to win $10000 dollars with the “Money Ball” promotion sponsored by Motorola and Verizon Wireless. Click here for details!
Once again don’t miss this opportunity to witness the best in the world!!!!
Anyone watch the first match aired last week on the Tennis Channel? It was the 2008 quarterfinal match between Alvaro Beltran and Shane Vanderson. IMO, it turned out great! I will admit the (non racquetball related) commercials got a little tiring, but it awesome to see our sport on TV. I know an HD broadcast is a little much to ask for at this point, but I have my fingers crossed if we ever make it on ESPN.
Tomorrow night, Wednesday Frebruary 27, 9:00PM EST, is the next match. I would HIGHLY recommend tuning in if you have the Tennis Channel!
Sunset Athletic Club, located in Portland, OR, hosted the grand opening of their stadium court expansion last night. To help kick things off, Shane Vanderson and Jason Thoerner were on hand for an exhibition match and “play the pro”. Also thanks to Mitch Williams for attending (and reffing), who made the trip despite being a little under the weather. We also got a special visit from some of the USA Racquetball staff, who are in town for this weekend’s USAR High School Nationals event.
Paul Maduell, the club’s racquetball director, ensured fun was had by all with free give-aways and refreshments courtesy of Widmer Brothers Brewing Company.
The new courts are SPECTACULAR, with tons of room for viewing matches, movable back walls to convert for squash, and my favorite – photos windows in both front walls! IMO, this will be THE premiere club in the Northwest for hosting big events (now all we need is some prize money for the IRT or WPRO!!).
If you’re ever in town, you’ll also want to take a look at the expansion’s featured artwork – Courtesy of Double Donut Studios! A few of featured photos were blown up to ~8′x8′ and mounted on the walls above the viewing area.